iPhone Users in South Korea Sue Apple; 27,000 Claim Data Collected Without Consent

By : Subscribe to IB's | August 18, 2011 7:53 PM IST

About 27,000 South Koreans who use Apple's iPhone have joined a class-action lawsuit against the manufacturer in local court. The lawsuit claims Apple is invading their privacy because the iPhone collects and stores location data without their consent.

The suit filed against Apple's South Korean division and headquarters seeks 1 million won per person, or $930, in damages, according to a filing by Mirae Law, which represents the plaintiffs.

The class-action suit was filed in Changwon, where the law firm is located.

Apple has faced scrutiny throughout the world this year after it was made public that the company stores location tracking data collected from its "smart" devices. Some groups complain that's a dangerous invasion of privacy.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company has said its mobile devices aren't equipped to hold location data for more than seven days, thus Apple keeps the information for up to one year because of a software glitch in the iOS operating system that the devices run on.

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The suit against Apple seeks roughly only $930 per plaintiff, according to The Associated Press, but the implications for Apple are much bigger than the lawsuit and amount at face value. Apple has plenty of cash on hand -- more than $76 billion. But the company's iPhone is the world's most popular smartphone and its iPad is the world's most popular tablet.

The company's patented location services technology is among the leading attributes of its most popular products. The lawsuit claims, however, that Apple's iOS location services infringes upon privacy rights since the iPhone stores location data obtained from nearby network towers and Wi-Fi hotspots for up to one year.

The lawyer who filed the suit is Kim Hyung-suk, who previously won himself a small settlement from Apple over a similar issue and is now wanting to cash in with a large settlement. He won his decision in a South Korea court in May. Earlier this year, Apple was sued in the U.S. by a couple of iPhone and iPad users who claimed the devices secretly collected information about their locations and movements.

Kim claims those lawsuits alerted him to the invasion of privacy according to Korean laws.

"I'm an iPhone user myself, so when I first heard about this in the media, I reviewed the legality of the matter based on Korean law," Hyeong-suk said, in a Bloomberg interview before the suit was filed. "I concluded it was clearly illegal."

Kim now has 27,000 signatures on an Internet petition seeking co-complainants for the class-action suit he filed seeking to "protect privacy" rights.

But the issue Kim successfully sued over and won has been fixed by Apple after the company released a software update that resolves the problem. The biggest issue for Apple, however, are mounting lawsuits like this, including some in the U.S., involving the company's patents and consumer privacy issues.

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